“And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
This text teaches us so much:
First, Jesus is Lord over death and life. He holds the keys to death and Hades in His hands (Rev. 1:18). The only one stronger than death is Jesus because He conquered it.
Second, if you want eternal life, you get it only through Jesus. Eternal life is to know Jesus (John 3:16, 36); eternal death is to reject Jesus (John 3:18-21). My eternal destiny rests solely on who Jesus Christ is to me.
Third, eternal life comes when we know our unworthiness and Christ’s innocence. The terrorist on the cross knew he was guilty of dreadful crimes and deserved to die for his evil. But he also knew Jesus was innocent, completely innocent of any offence. So it is with us: we are guilty; He is innocent.
Fourth, eternal life begins right away. This man’s spirit was going to be with Christ waiting for the resurrection of all flesh at Jesus’ second coming. Death either ushers us into eternal life or eternal death. And that judgment will be confirmed when Jesus returns again to establish His new physical and eternal kingdom.
Fifth, those who die in Christ are going to a fantastic, mind-boggling place. Paradise was the word used to describe the Garden of Eden. It is where we will have perfect fellowship with God.
God of grace and mercy, we give You thanks for the loving kindness shown to all Your servants who, having finished their course in faith, now rest from their labours. Grant that we also may be faithful unto death and receive the crown of eternal life, Amen.
(LSB prayer in the Funeral Service)